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Spotlight – Zoids: Chaotic Century – Fiona Elisi Linnet

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Yep, here is another Spotlight! post about a character from Zoids: Chaotic Century, readers! If I seem to be on a Zoids kick at the moment, the fact is that I want to get as many of my promised character and zoids posts done this year as possible. I’ve been falling behind, so there is some catch up to be done here. That begins today with this post, which focuses on Fiona Elisi Linnet, heroine of Zoids: Chaotic Century and love interest for its hero, Van Flyheight.

Fiona appears at the end of the first episode of Chaotic Century, “The Boy From Planet Zi.” Van finds her in the same room where he discovers Zeke. Thinking her pod contains another zoid, he is somewhat startled to find there is a blonde girl roughly his own age inside instead. Hilarity ensues as he brings her back to his home, the Wind Colony, in his new Shield Liger.

It quickly becomes apparent to both Van and the audience that this girl has amnesia – a very severe case of it. She doesn’t understand several common turns of phrase which Van uses, and she apparently has no idea what a name is, since she appears unable to identify herself every time he asks for her name. It also appears that she thought Van meant her instead of him, since he tells her at one point, “Watch my lips – it’s Van.

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Finally, she blurts out “Fiona” in response to his renewed request for her name, then follows it up with “Van” as she prepares to ask him another question. For a moment, our hero is almost apoplectic: “Look, I know my name is Van –”

Then it dawns on him that she said “Fiona” first, and he asks if that is her name.

“Who’s Fiona?” she asks, and Van states that she said the name first. “Really?” she says, sounding perfectly innocent and curious. “Does that mean I’m called Fiona?”

For the first five episodes, this is how their relationship goes, with Fiona asking questions that have answers which are blatantly obvious to everyone but her. It is funny but also sad – and, as we see later, dangerous. Because Fiona knows so little, her naïveté is extreme. At one point, she goes to free her captive friends, declaring her purpose loudly as she trots past one of the bandits holding them prisoner. Yes, she was that naïve. (Oh, by the way, you are going to love what she does with salt, readers. 😉 )

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Over time, Fiona loses this blithe innocence, though she remains decidedly pure in mind and soul. She also develops an affinity for computers and science (at least, all the sciences relating to the maintenance and well-being of zoids). It becomes apparent early on that she and Zeke share some kind of connection; you may have noticed that Fiona’s eyes are not a normal color. They are the same fuschia as Zeke’s, which is an early implication that she has a special bond with the organoid.

In fact, Fiona is not human, but a member of a near-human species native to Zi that vanished long ago. Known as Ancient Zoidians, Fiona’s people were the ones who developed/built the zoids everyone on the planet uses. But Fiona does not remember this until halfway through the first season of the show. Even then, she doesn’t recall enough of her past to figure this out herself. It is a friend of hers who points out that she seems to fit the descriptions of these early denizens of Zi.

If Van is the main selling point of the series, then Fiona is a close second. While she rarely takes the controls of a zoid and never goes into combat unless she is acting as Van’s copilot, she does have mettle and will fight – albeit in a manner that is “girly” – when she is threatened. To be honest, I would say that fighting was not her greatest strength anyway. Viewers don’t remember Fiona because she kicks butt; we remember her for her generosity, kindness, purity, and goodness.

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When it comes to her relationships in the show, Fiona’s innocence is what has the biggest effect on people. Where Van spurs others to be good with his determination and resolve to do what is right, Fiona brings out the gentleness and kindness in others with her innocence. Like Zeke, she is possessed of an inherent sincerity that makes good people automatically react to her with kindness. Where others might have mistreated her in order to “break her in” to the “real world,” Van and his friends instead work to protect her. And this is despite the fact that her initial simplicity often annoys them or makes their lives more difficult.

Her relationship with Zeke shows that she considers the organoid something of a twin brother, but in a different way than Van regards him. Fiona and Zeke are psychically tied together by a special rapport native to their two species, and so their personalities are very similar. The differences between them are mild, and mostly boil down to the fact that Zeke is more willing to enter combat – solo or otherwise – than Fiona is. When they combine their extrasensory abilities, the two can increase not only their own powers, but Van’s and his zoid’s as well.

The proof that Fiona’s greatest power is her innocence actually shows first in the episode “Memory,” where the two meet the mercenary Irvine. While lost in a sandstorm with Van, she accidently steps into a whirlpool of quicksand that nearly swallows her up. Having appeared out of the storm as if by magic, Irvine acts swiftly to save Fiona from being dragged under the sand. However, this kindness on his part appears to be temporary when he later holds her hostage in the same episode, thinking doing so will convince Van to hand Zeke over to him. Zeke dispels this illusion fairly quickly.

Despite these less than noble actions on his part, it is shown that Irvine is not immune to Fiona’s purity. When she puts him on the spot in the following show – “The Protectors” – Irvine has to admit that not only does he not dislike her and Van, he actually has a soft spot for them.

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I have to say, her friendship with Irvine was one of the best things in the series. It becomes obvious from “The Protectors” onward that she has the cool mercenary wrapped around her little finger. Irvine shows by small gestures and a few words that he really cares about Fiona. While there may be a bit of nostalgia on his end in this relationship (more on that in his post), it is made clear that he would throw himself in harm’s way without a second thought if Fiona were ever put in serious danger. In fact, from something I read about the manga for Chaotic Century, when a female bandit gave a veiled threat to Fiona, Irvine pulled his gun on her and stated she would be dead if she tried it. If that isn’t a sign of intense devotion to another person – and in a non-romantic relationship at that – then I do not know what is.

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Moonbay and Fiona’s friendship is a mixture of mother/daughter closeness and sisterly camaraderie. For the first dozen episodes, Fiona mostly follows Moonbay’s lead, as the savvy woman takes her under her wing. When not copiloting with Van, Fiona can often be seen as Moonbay’s shadow. She trails after her around the colonies and cities they visit, watches her repair the zoids, or helps her make dinner/break camp.

Fiona intervenes in Moonbay’s business dealings even less than Van does; she only shows anger at the older woman’s more mercenary tendencies once that I can recall. And while it may look like Moonbay treats Fiona as a pet or a servant early on, the reality is far different. She genuinely cares for the younger girl and wants to protect her. If anything, this may be the reason why Van and Irvine often leave her in Moonbay’s care; they can protect Fiona from outside threats, but they can’t teach her what it means to be a woman. Moonbay can, and she settles into the role of mother/older sister for Fiona with admirable ease.

It is also likely that her ability to repair/maintain zoids is what fostered Fiona’s own aptitude in these areas. Although she had another mentor in this field later on, following Moonbay around as she saw to the boys’ zoids probably reignited Fiona’s latent capabilities in mending or upgrading the living machines. It is one of the talents Moonbay is most pleased to see Fiona exercising later on in the series.

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Now we come to the most important relationship Fiona has in Chaotic Century. It is evident almost from the beginning of the series that she quickly comes to care for Van as more than a friend. She worries about him when she must stand aside to watch him fight, often murmuring his name during a confrontation or shouting it when she sees him get hurt. Where this would seem to be “softness” in a heroine in other stories, it is befitting of Fiona, who is gentleness itself.

More to the point, despite preferring to stay out of zoid combat when she is alone, Fiona shows no qualms about “flying RIO” with Van in his Ligers. Considering the danger to him in the cockpit, it takes nerve to sit behind him when he is in a battle. This shows that Fiona is not a coward or afraid of conflict; on her own, however, she does not seem to feel she has the ability to bring out the full potential of a zoid in combat. She would rather watch Van’s back during a battle than fight solo in her own zoid.

As stated in the post about Van, he and Fiona develop a psychic tie during the series. Fiona obviously initiated this link, since she is telepathic/empathetic. But it seems likely that, if Van hadn’t been open to such a connection, their bond would never have formed at all.

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This tie between the two is only activated in a noticeable manner when Fiona is specifically calling to Van or searching for him. On his own, Van cannot sense her as she can sense him, or call to her in a directly telepathic manner. In addition, if Van is hurt and lost somewhere far away from Fiona, she cannot pinpoint his location with perfect accuracy. Not until she gets closer to his position, at least. The less distance there is between them, the better her ability to locate him, generally speaking.

Should a film company get their hands on the rights to Zoids: Chaotic Century, I can see them trying to make Fiona more of a kick butt superwoman than a “stand and wait” heroine. I can also see almost any actress cast in her role demanding this change, too. This would be more of a tragedy than any changes made to Van’s personality, readers; Fiona is not strong because she can fight. She is strong in her innocence and the power it gives her to bring forth the goodness in others.

Having seen other female characters in following Zoids series that are more “kick butt” than “stand and wait” heroines, I can say with all honesty that I prefer Fiona to Rei Mii, Danbul, Lena Toros, and even Naomi Fluegel. Naomi was a pretty good combat pilot – not as good as Genesis’ Danbul or Rei Mii – but she wasn’t bad either. In the end, though, Fiona is superior to all of them because of her innate goodness and purity. She wins the argument hands down and is the unchallenged queen of Zoids heroines.

If any filmmakers change Fiona Elisi Linnet to make her more of a Femi Nazi character, I will be livid. You will never get me into a theater to watch a Zoids film (series) which makes Fiona less than the heroine she is in the anime, readers. So if the rights to Chaotic Century are in the hands of Hollywood (or its Japanese equivalent), watch your step, people. There is nothing more worrisome in your line of work than angry fans.

Well, that concludes this character post, readers. If you want to see Fiona Elisi Linnet and Van Flyheight in action, check out Zoids: Chaotic Century either at www.watchcartoonsonline.com (I finally have a free web address to give you!), or order the DVDs on Amazon.

See you on the battlefield!

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Spotlight: Zoids – The Guysack

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Well, here we are on Zi again, readers! Today’s subject is a Republican zoid, the Guysack. Before we go further, you pronounce it guy-zak, not guy-sack. I know, it is not pronounced the way it is spelled. If we were to list all the words that are pronounced in a different way than they are spelled, however, we would be here all day.

Okay, so the Guysack is obviously a scorpion-type zoid. Used by the Helic Republic’s infantry pilots, the Guysack’s cockpit is in its head. Most of these cockpits have orange canopies, but I did see one with an emerald canopy. Their traditional coloring is a sort of sandy brown, which lets these zoids blend in with the desert.

These are zoids which can burrow under and crawl through the sand dunes of Zi. Speedy and lightweight, every Guysack I have ever seen comes equipped with a gun in the end of its tail, where a real scorpion’s poisonous stinger is hidden. This is the zoid’s main weapon, but it can be outfitted with other armaments. Stinger, a mercenary character whom we will discuss in detail later on, owned a modified Guysack which came with extra guns on the tail and missile pods on the main body. I believe there might also have been some mini-guns attached near the zoid’s pincers. Despite this added ordinance, however, Stinger’s Guysack was faster than most of its brethren due to even more modifications he had made to it.

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Now those pincers in the zoid’s “mouth” really aren’t useful for combat, but the Guysack’s calws are not to be messed with if you can help it. They are wicked sharp and can do quite a bit of damage, something Zeke can tell you better than anyone. I never saw the Guysack’s claws used as much as they could have been, but I am fairly sure that they can cause a reasonable amount of damage to other zoids.

Most of the time we saw Guysacks in Chaotic Century, they were used as Sleeper Zoids – or “Sleepers” for short. Sleepers are zoids run by computers which use preprogrammed tactics to decimate enemy units. They have a certain amount of cunning when they are set loose, being able to lure enemies into hard-to-escape areas where they are easily surrounded and overwhelmed by the Sleepers’ (usually superior) numbers and firepower.

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Stinger’s red Guysack

While Sleepers do not have enough smarts to outthink a zoid with a pilot, the fact that there are a lot of them often makes up for their lack of intelligence. Also, Sleepers do not necessarily differentiate between transporters and enemy units. Van, Fiona, Moonbay, Zeke, and Irvine were all caught in a “Sleeper Trap” in the fifth episode of Chaotic Century, primarily because the Guysacks sensed the ammunition Moonbay was carrying had been made by the Guylos Empire. Because of that, their programming activated and they chased the gang into the ruins where they were based.

You can see how the heroes escaped this trap when you watch the episode, readers. Suffice it to say, Guysacks were not much more than cannon fodder throughout Chaotic Century. Even when they were piloted by characters that played important parts in certain episodes, they did not stick around long. Van stole Stinger’s Guysack and piloted it well, but his skill wasn’t enough to keep the mercenary from blowing it apart.

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Bole was not an impressive Guysack pilot. He somehow wrangled and got control of a wild blue Guysack before the first episode of the series begins, but he never does more than shoot or ram with it. Aside from beating up Zeke, he did not show any particular talent for piloting which makes the Guysack stand out.

However, none of this makes the Guysack a weak zoid. And while it was most often shifted to Sleeper or infantry duty, we did see it put to other uses. The Guysack could be modified to serve as a construction/excavation vehicle; the claws could be removed and replaced with a scoop for digging or moving rock and dirt. It was also possible to swap the claws for individual metal detectors/sonars and other equipment meant to scan below the surface.

All in all, I would say the Guysack was a largely underutilized zoid. Despite the poor management of the zoid in this series, I have a certain respect for this “mechanical combat unit” and wouldn’t mind using one in battle. I would certainly prefer the four-legged predator style zoids, but the Guysack has a lot to recommend it. It is not a zoid I would disrespect or refuse to pilot.

To see more of the Guysack, check out Zoids: Chaotic Century at your earliest opportunity, readers. While the Guysack appeared in Fuzors (with green armor), from what I remember, Chaotic Century will be the show where you will see it in action most often.

See you on the battlefield!

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Spotlight – Zoids: Chaotic Century – Van Flyheight

Last year I promised that I would begin doing Spotlight! posts about the characters from my favorite Zoids series, along with articles about the “mechanical combat units” themselves. Today, I am making good on that promise; here we will discuss the hero of Zoids: Chaotic Century – Van Flyheight.

Van is fourteen at the start of the TV series (the translators in Canada mistakenly have another character in the show say he is seventeen). Raised in the farming town of Wind Colony, Van’s father died five years before the series begins. Imperial soldiers came to the Republican colony when Major Dan Flyheight and a group of Republican soldiers were nearby. The commander of the Imperial division threatened to burn the village to the ground, but Dan Flyheight and his white Command Wolf, Zeke, took the entire unit down single-handedly.

So at the beginning of the show, Van is being raised by his older sister, Maria, in the Wind Colony. Every chance he gets, he sneaks away from her to explore the ruins of nearby military bases. Judging by their appearance, these bases long predate the current war in the show. Van does this to seek adventure and scrounge for scraps of salvage, despite his sister’s constant warnings that this is dangerous – not to mention her insistence that he do his chores.

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Van Flyheight

But come on, what fourteen year old boy who wants to be the greatest zoid pilot ever is going to listen when his big sister tells him to do boring chores? As the village priest tells her, “You can’t stop the boy from wanting to find a zoid of his own.” And that means she cannot stop him from running off to the desert.

Open, energetic, and easily excited (or offended), Van once again escapes his sister to go exploring in the first episode of Chaotic Century: “The Boy From Planet Zi”. But he gets more than he bargained for when a bandit named Bole begins chasing him in a newly acquired blue Guysack (scorpion-type Republican zoid – more on that another day).

Van escapes Bole by the skin of his teeth, hiding in the ruins. Then Bole’s compatriots/babysitters, Bianco and Nero, come to dig their young charge out of the rubble. Before they do that, they shoot at the ruins to trap Van inside so he cannot go running off to tell the villagers he saw them. That would bring the Republican Army down on the Desert Alca Valino Gang, and none of them want official trouble.

Inside the ruins, Van notices a heretofore hidden door which is now askew. He goes down the path to find a secret room with two green stasis pods inside. Accidentally opening the first, he encounters and befriends Zeke.

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Van Flyheight and his organoid, Zeke

More information about their first meeting can be found here and here, readers, if you want to start watching the series. Even all these years later, I absolutely love this show, and Van is a big reason why.

Despite the fact that he starts out reckless, hotheaded, and callow, Van quickly wins a viewer’s affection with his willingness to pick himself up and dust himself off. His kind, selfless nature make up for his naïveté and impulsive behavior. Over time he matures into a stronger boy, eventually becoming a great young man you still want to cheer on.

While it seems like mere luck that Van lives long enough to become the “greatest zoid pilot ever,” there is actually a lot of raw talent backing him up. Van has the potential to be a great pilot right from the start; he is perceptive, inventive, and quick-thinking. All he needs to learn at the beginning of his career as a pilot is how to put that together with his fighting skills instead of charging blindly into a battle.

It must be said that no one viewing the show would love zoids very well without Van Flyheight. A boy “with a strong fascination with zoids,” Van loves the mechanical animals almost as much as he loves those who are related to him or who are his friends. The entire reason he and Raven, his archnemesis through most of the show’s run, begin their feud is because the latter takes pleasure in brutally destroying zoids.

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Raven vs. Van Flyheight

And when I say brutal, readers, I mean brutal. Van rightly calls Raven’s attacks evil, but we would not really notice how evil they were if not for our hero’s instinctive reaction to Raven’s fighting style. This brings another characteristic of his to light; much like Captain America/Steve Rogers, Van has a heightened sense of right and wrong. He may not be able to explain how he knows the difference between good and evil on occasion, but when he sees some wrong being committed – no matter how small it may be – he instantly recognizes it and acts to correct the transgression.

Of course, some will ask how I can say this, given Van’s penchant for sneaking away from his sister and disobeying her. First, it is important to remember that I did not say Van was a saint. I said he was good – about as good as Captain America, though he may be a few bars lower on the scale. Besides, avoiding chores does not make anyone a criminal-in-training; it certainly seems that Van was obedient most of the time. And who knows where we would be if he had not snuck out to play in the desert every once in a while? Zi would be worse off if he had stayed home, I can assure you!

This exemplary standard of goodness in Van has a profound effect on those he meets. They are impressed, either immediately or over time, by his innate goodness, his determination, and his no-quit attitude. We see this most in the first adult friends he makes outside Wind Colony: Irvine and Moonbay.

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Irvine

Irvine and Van meet in the episode “Memory.” A wandering mercenary who fights or “protects” for money, he is in the area when Van and Fiona get lost in a sandstorm. On the hunt for an organoid to increase his power and strength, Irvine decides to try and steal Zeke from Van. You would think this would make them enemies and, for a while, they certainly are not friends.

But Irvine is not yet so far down the Dark Path that he is immune to Van’s inborn decency. Before you know it, he is traveling along with Van, Zeke, Fiona, and Moonbay. Though he says several times he is just waiting to find an opportunity to steal Zeke, it quickly becomes apparent this is no truer than Han’s statement in A New Hope when he says he is only interested in the money. Van’s goodness awakens and enhances Irvine’s, bringing it to the fore and making him a better person. The two eventually become brothers – not just in the sense of being fellow pilots of high skill, but in the fact that they watch out for, care about, and protect each other.

Moonbay fills the role of mother for Van in the beginning, a little like Hera Syndulla does for the crew in Star Wars Rebels. But where Hera is calm, cool, and very hard to ruffle, Moonbay can and will raise her voice in fury when someone ticks her off. Like Irvine, she has also become jaded by “real life” and she has a mercenary streak. More than once we see her wheeling and dealing on the side to earn more money than others think she needs. Van only directly confronts her once during one of these deals when she almost pulls a genuine swindle, telling her that he “can’t explain it using big fancy words but… [he] sure know[s] the difference between right and wrong!”

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Moonbay

In reality, Moonbay is not much of a mercenary. She just loves traveling, which means that she needs enough money to support herself – not to mention the rest of the gang while they are roving along with her. As a disciplinarian, she is able to get more and better results out of Van than Maria for the simple reason that she is not his older sister. She treats him like the kid he is and tells him off when he deserves it – sometimes with a punch, if she feels he has earned one. At the same time, Van’s goodness keeps Moonbay honest and makes her strive to be better, even if she won’t necessarily admit that out loud.

Zeke remains Van’s best friend and fellow combatant throughout the series. The two are devoted to each other, almost like twin brothers (as opposed to the older brother/younger brother relationship Van and Irvine share). Much like Van, Zeke seems to be possessed of an inherent gentleness and goodness. Where others might have beaten this out of him, Van’s natural kindness enhances Zeke’s and keeps him innocent.

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Van and Fiona

Finally, we come to the relationship Van has with Fiona Elisi (Alicia?) Linnet, the Ancient Zoidian girl he finds in the same ruins where Zeke is hidden. When Fiona is released from her stasis pod, she initially has no memory of who she is or where she came from. She cannot remember her real name (Elisi Linnet), only the name “Fiona.” Despite being irritated by her constant questions in the first two episodes, Van immediately works to help Fiona, taking her to his village so she can be safe.

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While they start out as friends, over the course of the show the two obviously fall in love. Though we only see them kiss once (when Fiona has to talk to Van via a psychic image and/or hologram), the rapport between the two is not that of a brother and sister or of two friends traveling together. It is most definitely romantic, and in the best kind of way. This is made blatantly clear in episodes such as “A Voice from Afar” and “New Liger,” where Van can hear Fiona’s voice in his mind. The two early on show signs of developing a romantic bond, which seems to be the basis for the psychic tie that arises between them.

But the relationship which has the most profound impact on Van’s character is one we never see. This is his bond with his father, Major Dan Flyheight. Though we never watch them interact on screen, Van’s dedication to becoming “the greatest zoid pilot ever” is due entirely to his admiration of, and his love for, his deceased father.

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Dan Flyheight

We only see Dan Flyheight once in a flashback in the episode “The Distant Stars.” However, that brief glimpse shows us where Van gets not only his piloting skills, but also his kindness, gentleness, and strong sense of right and wrong. Dan’s last words – his last thoughts – are for the two children he will leave behind, showing that the strength of Van’s love for his family and friends was learned at his father’s knee. He even names his best friend Zeke after his father’s zoid. In a world where the power of the father is laughed off and derided as unnecessary, Van proves the exact opposite with his fond remembrance of the father he lost too early.

The plot for Zoids: Chaotic Century is the joys and travails not only of a boy becoming a man, but of a page becoming a knight. Van is needed now more than ever for viewers, boys and girls both. Girls will learn what really makes a man by watching this series, while at the same time boys learn the virtues which will be their guides and friends throughout their lives.

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If, as is possible, someone intends to make a film (or a series of them) about Zoids: Chaotic Century, they HAVE to get Van Flyheight right. If they do not do that, then the movie(s) they make will be worthless, or very close to it. Along with Captain America, Aragorn, Optimus Prime, and Sir Galahad, the one character in the universe who you CANNOT mess with is Van Flyheight, readers.

But you do not need to take my word for it; just visit the posts I have about the show to see what will be lost if Van is not brought to life properly. Or, better yet, hunt down Zoids: Chaotic Century’s eleven DVDs on www.amazon.com and watch the show yourselves. If you hate it, I will be surprised. If you love it – welcome to Zi, readers! We’re happy to have you on the battlefield!

Catch ya later! 😉

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Spotlight: Zoids – The Gun Sniper

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Are you ready to do battle on the desert sands of Zi again, readers? All right, then, here we go! Today’s zoid is one of my favorites. This would be the Helic Republic’s raptor-type, multi-use Gun Sniper.

Its cockpit, as you may have guessed if you have kept up with my other zoids’ posts, is under that orange canopy on its head. I have yet to encounter a Gun Sniper with more than one seat; every last one of them is a single-pilot zoid. With a lightweight frame and armor, plus high maneuverability, the Gun Sniper is one of the few two-legged zoids I would take if my preferred four legged “mechanical combat units” were not an option.

Gun Snipers get their name from their main weapon. This is a sniper rifle that is hidden within the zoid’s tail. From a high vantage point or even on the horizontal, a Gun Sniper can swing around, lock into place with its large toes, and then straighten out its spine so it is level with the ground.

When it does this the pilot’s seat extends into a flat board and flips over, allowing whoever is in control of the Gun Sniper to assume a prone position. They can then take the controls for the hidden rifle, line up on their target, and fire. Usually, their enemy is down for the count after the first shot.

For accuracy and efficiency, Gun Snipers are really hard to beat. Naomi Fleugel from Zoids: New Century Zero made a name for herself in the prize fights by taking down her opponents with a single shot. When the battle would start she would retreat to a sniping vantage point, wait for her challenger(s) to walk into her line of sight, and take them down with one round.

In Chaotic Century, three precisely placed shots from a Gun Sniper’s tail were able to pierce the shield of Van’s Blade Liger, destroying the generator for the shield on the its back. When you want precision, stealth, and speed, the Gun Sniper is the zoid for you, readers.

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Most Gun Snipers are painted grey, but they can have different color schemes. Naomi’s Sniper was painted red, in order for it to match her hair and her costume. This did not make her any easier to spot, though; even with a coal-red paint job, she could hide her Sniper so well most of her rivals had no idea where to start looking for her.

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Naomi Fluegel’s Gun Sniper

The Gun Sniper is a very adaptable zoid. It can be modified to store missiles in its shoulders and typically comes with mini-machine guns on top of its forearm claws. (It’s a Republican zoid – of course they found ways to stash extra weapons inside the Sniper’s chassis.) Besides these light modifications, the Gun Sniper can have missile packs attached to its back and hips, as well as large Gatling guns situated on its hips and shoulders. There is, typically, a radar dish situated between the zoid’s shoulders in these cases as well. Lena Toros went this route, loading her Gun Sniper down with enough firepower to make it a walking gun show display. I never, ever saw her use the zoid’s built-in sniper rifle.

One of the unfortunate side effects of adding so much ordnance to the Sniper is it limits the zoid’s mobility and speed. Even though most of these extra weapons are lightweight and meant to accent the Sniper’s alacrity, they do tend to get in the way. Lena’s Gun Sniper could not make as good time at a dead run across the ground as Naomi’s could have, from what I saw of it. Another problem encountered by saddling the zoid with extra weapons is the temptation for the pilot to carpet bomb his/her enemies rather than take them out in a more economical manner.

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For instance, Lena loved blowing the countryside to pieces. She would laugh maniacally as she fired off her “Weasel Unit Total Assault” during a battle. She managed to take out run-of-the-mill fighters with this tactic but against smarter, stronger, and more able opponents, the only thing she destroyed in this manner was the ground.

Plus, she never seemed to learn to run, dodge, or duck, all maneuvers the Gun Sniper is very capable of performing. Instead of making herself a moving target you had to chase, Lena would simply stand still, like a fixed weapon, and shoot. And shoot. And shoot. And shoot….

You could tell pretty early in some battles when Lena was going to be the first Blitz Team member taken down. On average, Brad and Bit would both stay standing in a fight longer than she would, with few exceptions – inside and outside of the arenas.

Not all the Sniper pilots in Chaotic Century avoided this fate, either. In Supersonic Battle, Van Flyheight and Thomas Schubaltz were able to take out five Gun Snipers with relative ease. This was partly because they were the better pilots, but it was also due to the fact that their enemies remained standing in one place, shooting every cannon they had at them, instead of making themselves harder targets to hit.

Of course, since they were fighting the battle from the confines of someone’s palatial front lawn, the Gun Sniper pilots had less room to maneuver than Van and Thomas did. I guess that makes their staying in place understandable, if not praiseworthy or desirable.

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It is also worth noting that while a Gun Sniper is fixed in the “sniping” position – that is, it has its tail gun lined up for a shot and its toes are locked into the ground – it is basically a sitting duck. The process of lining up for a shot does not take more than a few seconds, making the Sniper able to attack before an enemy can strike (most of the time). But when coming out of that stance, seconds truly count. Unless the pilot is really good or has a friend with a different zoid backing him up, his Sniper will be taken down quickly if it is locked into firing position when he is attacked.

Still, the positives for this zoid outweigh the negatives. The Gun Sniper was so effective on its own that the Republic began forming military units of them. They were never a zoid to sneeze at or disrespect, and I have to say that I think they were right up my alley, readers. Hopefully, this post has at least made you curious to see them in action yourselves.

Before you go, I invite you to have a look at these Gun Sniper memes. I am pretty sure most of them were made at Lena’s expense. ;D

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“See you on the battlefield!”

Spotlight: X-Men – Storm/Ororo Munroe

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You may or may not remember the introduction I wrote for the Spotlight! post on Rogue, readers. I happened to find some articles about the “Strong Female Character” model Hollywood and the usual suspects have been trying to force on us lately. I have already written two posts of my own on this subject, both with the title “Strong Women,” but these other articles got me thinking harder about the subject. How can Marvel’s heroines, most of whom have superpowers, be strong women without being “SFC”s?

Well, in the case of Storm/Ororo Munroe, that question is not hard to answer. But it is a little time consuming, as I am going to give you a history of the character to deepen your understanding of her. A lot goes into making a competent heroine, while not much goes into the making of a stereotypical SFC, and the difference should be illustrated.

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One of the reasons I was disappointed by the X-Men films was Storm’s appearance. Storm had always been one of my favorite X-Men. In fact, when reading the Animorphs series, I was upset when one of the characters was compared to Storm. This character was Rachel, a blonde, blue-eyed beauty with the heart of an Amazon. I was not happy with another character choosing to compare her to Storm; the only thing Rachel and Storm had in common were their blue eyes, readers. After that, they were as different as apples and oranges.

So I thought having Storm in the films would be great. But when I saw Halle Berry playing the character, I was let down by the fact that a) she did not look like the Storm I knew, and b) she seemed to be completely watered down as a character.

If you are scratching your head and wondering why I would think this, allow me to explain. Storm is actually an African-American character, something that is never mentioned in the movies. Her mother was a Kenyan princess but her father was an American photojournalist. This is presumably where Storm gets her blue eyes; I cannot say for sure, but I think her father may have been white. I know he was American, and this is what makes her African-American.

Anyway, the couple married and moved to Cairo, Egypt, after Storm was born in New York City, New York. When Ororo was four years old, her parents’ apartment complex was accidentally bombed by a fighter jet flying overhead. Both of Ororo’s parents were killed and she herself was buried in the rubble for days. The extended confinement at this tender age left her with severe claustrophobia; even as an adult who has fought hundreds of battles against the nastiest people you can imagine, Ororo is terrified of small spaces. It is her biggest weakness, but luckily it is not always exploited by her enemies.

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After she was orphaned, Storm lived on the streets of Cairo for the next few years of her life. She made a meager living by picking pockets and stealing during this time. (That was not a very heroic start to life, huh, readers?) Finally, about the age of twelve or thirteen, Ororo did decide she had had enough of this life and left Cairo on foot.

On her way further into Africa, Storm met her future ex-husband T’Challa, who would someday become King of Wakanda and an Avenger. They did not stay together long, as Storm still did not feel at home in the area where they met. So she kept walking until she found a place that felt right to her (this place was, presumably, Kenya, her mother’s homeland). Here her mutant powers manifested and the locals worshipped her as a deity. In the X-Men: Evolution series, they gave her the name “Wind Rider.”

This village is where the Professor found and recruited Ororo into the X-Men. Partly because she had been playing goddess, partly due to her royal heritage, Storm became one of the most unflappable members of the team.

But there is more than mere instinct and training involved in Storm’s calm demeanor. You see, remaining calm is the best way for her to control her powers. Unlike Thor Odinson, Ororo cannot make a storm or even raise a wind out of thin air. This is Thor’s ability because his hammer does not need existing weather patterns to drum up wicked weather – it can create new weather patterns as instantly as Thor can think of them.

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Storm has to use existing weather patterns to create the weather she needs/wants. She has to draw moisture into one area from another or pull wind from one area to her.

In confined spaces, such as the X-Men’s Danger Room or another building, this is no real biggie as far as I know. Ororo can get the needed air and moisture from the building and nature will not become unbalanced because the internal temperature and moisture of a building is kept at a regular level by the heating/cooling systems.

This is not the case outside of this restricted environment. When she is flying above a city or a continent, if Ororo pulls too much hot air from one region and too much moisture from another, she can upset the balance of the weather in that area for a long time. She may even upset it forever, if she overdoes it.

So while Storm’s powers are fantastic and amazing, she has to be careful when she uses them. Her powers are tightly tied to her emotional state; if Ororo gets angry or becomes frightened, the weather will turn wild and ugly in response. This is the other reason for her quiet, tranquil attitude; Storm cannot lose control of herself in the smallest degree, because the effects will be far larger than a normal temper tantrum or a righteous scolding would allow. She could flood entire cities if she lost her restraint and this is why she rarely lets her temper out of the bag.

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However, this does not mean that Ororo does not have a temper. It just means that you have to work hard to get her to show it. Mystique pulled that off at the beginning of Evolution’s third season; she had kidnapped the Professor and pretended to be him for the last few episodes of season two.

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But her deception was only revealed at the end of season two, to be picked up at the beginning of season three. This was after the X-Men’s first public battle, where some of their members were captured by the government. After Nick Fury gave the X-Men information on their captured teammates, Storm began to plan the rescue operation…

…Only for Mystique to forcibly take command of the rescue mission away from her and put herself in charge. She did this, she claimed, because the Blob had been taken into custody along with the captured X-Men.

Already upset by the previous day’s chain of events, Mystique taking command of her team really got Ororo angry. Without thinking, she drummed up an instantaneous thunderstorm that might have had dire consequences for the town nearby. It took Jean Grey’s quick reminder about Mystique’s threat to the Professor’s life to make Ororo put the genie back in the bottle. The fact that she was able to “turn her powers off” so quickly is a testament to how much self-control Storm exerts over her emotions in times of stress such as this.

So how does this make Storm something other than an SFC? For one thing, Ororo is far more poised and graceful than most of the SFC characters I have seen. She is calm (usually), polite, composed, and does not think herself the better of any of the men in her life. Case in point would be the above episode I mentioned, where Storm bottled up her temper and her powers in order not to put the Professor’s life in jeopardy. It would have been far more of a struggle for Carol Danvers to do that, readers.

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Another thing which separates Ororo from the SFC model is her motherly tendencies. These first manifested in the comics when young Kitty Pryde – eventually codenamed Shadowcat – joined the team. Thirteen at the time in the comics, Kitty and her family had already been approached by a sinister telepath named Emma Frost. Kitty did not like the woman at all, but she sang a different tune when the X-Men – including Ororo – knocked on her parents’ door to ask to see her.

Kitty and Ororo apparently hit it off at once, and Storm has always been something of a “battle mother” for the younger X-Men. Shadowcat was not the last child she took a shine to; Ororo has “mothered” many other X-Men during their first days on the team, though I do not think she did it as obviously in most cases as she did with Kitty.

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The possible exception might have been in Evolution. In that series, Storm was given a sister who was married and had a son, Evan. Ororo is an only child in the original stories, but the writers for Evolution added a sister so they could bring her nephew, Evan Daniels, into the series. Codenamed Spyke, Evan’s mutant power was shooting greenish, bony spikes from his body. This meant that he had to drink a lot of milk to keep his calcium levels on a healthy plane.

But Evan was also a typical New York teen who thought he was tougher than he actually was. Ororo’s maternal inclinations were mostly directed toward him for the series’ duration as she tried to teach him that being tough meant more than talking hard and playing rough. She was also continually trying to get him to be more disciplined, as Evan had a bad penchant for fooling around or goofing off when he should have been studying – either at school or in the Mansion’s Danger Room.

This shows that, unlike the stereotypical SFC trope, Ororo has never demonstrated a dislike of motherhood. She has expressed on occasion a fondness for the role and a desire to someday be a mother, something she achieved in several alternate timeline comics with T’Challa. In two different timelines (or the same one) they had two sons; one was named after T’Challa’s father and the other was named Azari. So Ororo definitely does not check the Feminista boxes for hating children and motherhood.

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Storm and T’Challa’s son, Azari, in action.

Storm also does not have the super education the Femi-Nazis like to hold over everyone’s heads. Like Rogue, she learned most of her lessons on the streets, not in a brick and mortar school. And she actually had to learn those lessons from a younger age; Ororo was living on the streets of Cairo from the age of four. That was not easy or fun, readers.

This does not mean that Ororo is stupid or a rube. But it does mean that she is not a mechanic or super scientist. She is, as Evolution put it, a “weather witch” and a mother figure. Her interest lies in people and nature – and not in the way that the Feminists would want her to focus on these things.

I have never had any gripes with Storm prior to the X-Men film franchise. Halle Berry, most likely due to the directors’ interference, does not do the character justice, even all these long years later. My only gripe with the character in the comics was her first combat suit and a recent remake, which exposes way too much of Storm’s body. Newsflash, Marvel writers, combat includes getting shot at and having knives or other sharp objects thrown at you. The absolute LAST thing a woman – or a man, for that matter, unless he is the Hulk or someone like that – should be wearing on the battlefield is a revealing suit. It looks great on the runway but it is a bad, bad, bad idea in a fight.

As I said in my post about Rogue, I think Storm is one of the few characters who can skate by with long hair. With her powers, very few people can actually get close enough to her to grab her hair, let alone any other part of her body. And even if they do manage to tackle her out of the sky, her hair will be the absolute last thing they will reach for because they will not want to grab and hold her. They will want to knock her out as fast as possible so that they can slap an inhibitor collar around her neck.

So no, I do not want Ororo’s hair cut short, as Halle Berry has occasionally worn it. And no, I DEFINITELY DO NOT WANT STORM TO HAVE A MOHAWK. PERIOD!!!!!!!

I can also give Storm a pass on the cape she wears. Normally, I do not care too much for superhero capes. You can thank The Incredibles for this one, readers; the film made a point that capes look great but they can also be as dangerous as long hair.

In Ororo’s case, her capes have rarely been in her way. She also used her cape at one point in the book, Kidnapped in the Catacombs, to snare Callisto’s foot. (Callisto is the leader of the Morlocks, enemies of the X-Men you can learn more about in the post “Spotlight: An Introduction to Marvel’s X-Men, Part 2.”) When Storm pulled on her cape, she sent Callisto flying headfirst into a wall.

The reason she was able to do this with her cape was because it was not a full cape; it was a crescent shaped cape that connected to the back of Storm’s suit and at the cuffs of her sleeves, leaving a space in between her arms and the cape. A regular cape, I do not think, would be able to do this, but I could be wrong.

Either way, my favorite suit for Storm was the silver one we saw in the 1990s X-Men series. The one she wore in Evolution was not bad, but it was too dark for my tastes.

Well, readers, this is my take on Storm/Ororo Munroe, and these are the reasons why I cannot picture her as a Feminista. She just does not have it in her. The writers could try to add it to her character, of course, but that would go over about as well as the Mohawk they gave her did. Storm is not the modern idea of an SFC and she can never be this because she was designed to be a heroine, not a talking point on a Feminist bulletin board.

The idea that some people might put her there, for any reason, is enough to get me pretty angry. If it has not yet been made clear by my posts about Cap, Hawkeye, Gambit, and Rogue, you do not want to mess with my favorite characters.

Excelsior!

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Spotlight: The Lion Guard – Kion

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Yes, I watch Disney’s The Lion Guard. So what? I am not as big a fan of it as some are, but with my other choices being The Walking Dead or Beavis and Butthead, I have made do with what I have. (For those of you wondering how I can skip out on such a compelling show as The Walking Dead, please remember that I have stated that I do not like horror stories, the genre which includes zombies.) I will take talking lions and cheetahs and baboons – oh, my! – over the undead and stupid caricatures at every opportunity.

The Lion Guard focuses on Simba’s heretofore unknown son, Kion. The second born cub of Simba and Nala, and Kiara’s younger brother, Kion is given the responsibility of protecting the Pridelands and the “Circle of Life” by leading a team known as the Lion Guard. Their mission is to defend the Pridelands from invasion, as well as the imbalance due to the greed of the creatures that live in and around the territory controlled by Simba and his pride.

Other than his royal heritage, what gives Kion this right and responsibility? He has inherited the power of the “Roar of the Elders.” When Kion roars, the great lions of the Pridelands’ past roar with him. This gives his own roar quite a big boost, allowing him to knock down and scatter the enemies that continue to trouble the Pridelands and threaten the Circle of Life. Turns out, Scar had this roar, too, when he was a cub. But he got to like wielding it too much and thought he could use it to get Mufasa out of the way and make himself king.

Well, when he asked or demanded that his Lion Guard – made up of lions from the pride – help him overthrow Mufasa, they refused. Enraged, Scar used the roar on his own Lion Guard. This presumably killed them, and the fact that Scar used the roar for evil cost him his ability to use it. It also made him the skinny, unhealthy looking lion we saw in the first Lion King film.

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Now there has been a big to-do over Kion’s Lion Guard. This Guard is supposed to show “diversity” in that the only lion in the Guard is Kion. The rest of the animals in the Guard are Bunga, a honey badger; Ono, an egret; Beshte, a hippopotamous, and Fuli, a cheetah.

It is more than slightly laughable to think that this mixed bag of animals is a good representation of “diversity” for children. Eventually, the children will grow up to learn that animals in the wild do not mix like this. Egrets, honey badgers, and hippos all do their own things, while cheetahs will get up and leave a kill when a lion starts walking toward it and them. Because lions are bigger than cheetahs, the smaller cats have very, very little to do with them, mostly because they do not want to be the lion’s side dish at the dinner table.

You can see that I give the “diversity” aim of The Lion Guard the respect it deserves. Why, then, do I continue to watch the show – even to avoid a series like Beavis and Butthead? I watch the show because the lead character and his male friends are actually allowed to be smart, chivalrous boys.

Allow me to explain: if you watch Sofia the First or Elena of Avalor with your daughters/nieces/sisters/whichever, you have seen the girls lead the boys in everything. They are braver, smarter, more compassionate, and completely better in every way than the men in their lives. Although the main male characters in these shows might not be bumbling, fumbling fools ninety percent of the time, the side male characters often are.

Now, admittedly, The Lion Guard has a character that falls into this category ninety percent of the time. This would be the honey badger, Bunga, Kion’s best friend and the adopted nephew of Timon and Pumba. Bunga’s position in the Guard is the bravest – he is so brave he “[borders] on stupid,” to quote Kiara. Most fans find him annoying and want him dead.

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I think that last part is a little harsh. I agree that Bunga is irritating, but this is a children’s show, people. And Bunga’s voice actor should get a chance to pay for his college education, too, so I do not want his character dead. If he could be a little less stupid and a little more observant, I would not say no to that; dead, I will not accept.

Bunga is the only member of the team to act in a consistently dense manner. The other two male members of the Guard – Beshte and Ono – are far from unintelligent. Beshte is the hippo and the strongest in the Pridelands. He is therefore the quintessential gentle giant, and there is nothing wrong with that. Andre the Giant was a gentle giant; gentle giants are good characters. And Beshte also has a temper that will flare up occasionally, so he has a little spice mixed in with the sweetness.

Ono leans toward the studious know-it-all trope. The keenest of sight in the Pridelands, Ono acts as the Guard’s eyes, looking for trouble and yelling it out to the Guard. While Ono has many of the nose-in-a-book stereotypical trappings, the difference is that he will fight without too much hesitation. He has mixed it up with vultures, hawks, and land animals, no mean feat for a bird that is not a raptor. It usually makes up for his skittish or know-it-all failings.

Kion is, by far, the one who breaks the mold of the modern formulaic boy. He is polite, friendly, calm, fierce, and quick-thinking. Even Avengers Assemble struggled with portraying the male heroes in this fashion, as you will find if you read the posts about the series here on my blog. The male Avengers – especially Hawkeye – were portrayed as fools in most of the episodes at the series’ start. This is due to the fact that the writers began telling the story of Assemble through a liberal-ified lens in the first season and kept it going through the second (and they seem to be reverting to that form with a vengeance for season four).

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If you drop by the Disney channels, even for the advertisements alone, you will find them to be mostly girl-centered. This is not just with shows like Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Elena of Avalor. Disney has a whole series of ads called “Dream Big, Princess” to inspire girls to be anything they want to be. They also have advertisements for Lab Rats, Descendants, and other shows which make boys look like brainless idiots and girls look like uber women in training.

This is not only unrealistic and disheartening, it is dangerous. What is your son/nephew/brother or the boy next door supposed to achieve with these caricatures as his models? Disney has no “Dream Big, Prince” television ads encouraging boys to be great men like Prince Phillip, Prince Eric, or even Kristoff in their last big film, Frozen. Instead they push the popular narrative that boys are mini-barbarians or mini-buffoons in training who will someday grow up to be Big Barbarians or Big Buffoons.

If I had to bet, this is one of the reasons why The Lion Guard has taken off. Throughout the series so far, Kion has rarely failed to be a good little boy. In the first episode of the series, Kion ends up in the Outlands after chasing some marauding hyenas out of the Pridelands. While on the other side of the border, he bumps into a female hyena named Jasiri.

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At first, Kion is suspicious of Jasiri, referring to her as “hyena” and being snappish when he speaks to her. But when Jasiri proves to be totally unlike the other hyenas, Kion starts treating her better. He proves that his earlier conduct toward her was a lapse in judgement and a jump to a conclusion when he comes back to defend Jasiri from the same marauding hyenas at the end of the episode. Though Jasiri proves to be a capable fighter, there is never a hint that Kion should apologize for coming to help her or defer to her as some fighting goddess he should worship.

In fact, at one point during the battle, he thrusts Jasiri to the ground in order to headbutt a hyena she has not seen coming. Not only does the move show fast thinking, it proves that Kion’s earlier behavior was a mistake he has since recognized and corrected.

And so far in the series, when fighting alongside a girl, Kion does not leave his manly concern for her at the edge of the battlefield but keeps it with him at all times. Jasiri even thanks Kion for his help in this show, a rare thing in modern media. (Just look up Avengers Assemble’s “Captain Marvel” episode from season three to see why I say this.)

This is not the last time that Kion behaves in a chivalrous manner toward a girl, either. Although they have the regular spats any pair of siblings would, Kion treats Kiara with a respect that is the exact opposite of simpering worship. It also has overtones of a greater reverence than most boys in modern media show their sisters. It is an esteem which comes from a healthy dose of – *gasp* – chivalry!

Yes, I just said that the lead character in The Lion Guard possesses chivalry. Kiara is still a poor fighter in the series; this is to presrve the timeline for the story. We saw Kovu point out twice in The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride that Kiara’s fighting tactics were less than stellar, and the television show did not change this fact. In The Lion Guard, Kion had to come to his sister’s direct defense in “Can’t Wait to Be Queen.” He also showed a fair bit of attachment to, and concern for, her in “The Rise of Scar.” Kion also demonstrates a chivalrous deference and love for his mother, Nala, in the episode “Never Roar Again.”

But the best episode to show Kion’s sense of chivalry so far was “The Search for Utamu” because it was his most obvious display of the virtue. It also added a healthy dose of chilvalry to the other Guard members’ characters as well.

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In this episode the lone female member of the Guard, Fuli the cheetah, overexerts herself while she is supposed to be resting. Cheetahs can only keep their amazing speed going for a few minutes. After that, it can take them up to half an hour to get their breath back. Once a cheetah makes a kill, it has to sit beside the animal for at least that long to get its breath and then it can eat.

This is why it will get up and walk away when it sees a lion coming to check out the kill. Not only is the cheetah smaller and weaker than the lion but, when out of breath, it cannot outpace the lion.

Fuli is still a cub, and as of this episode she did not believe that she had any limits. Her inevitable exhaustion after her lone escapade leaves Fuli vulnerable to an attack from a group of vultures. When the male Guard members learn about her danger, they all rush to their female friend’s defense. Kion especially shows anger at the vultures when he blasts them into the distance with the Roar of the Elders (which is probably why we did not see them for some time after this episode).

So while Fuli and Jasiri are both female characters who can manage their own affairs – and who often say they can look after themselves without interference from “foolish males” – they have both landed in situations where they needed Kion and the other boys’ aid. And while Kion respects the abilities and competence of his two female friends, he also treats them with the special regard that they deserve as girls.

This does not diminish the girls’ fighting and survival abilities and, amazingly, it does not make the boys’ desire to protect them when they cannot defend themselves appear silly. This showing of chivalry is a great thing, as it spotlights a virtue which male characters have been denied in similar series – created by Disney and other companies – for far too long.

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Another way our male lead demonstrates his chivalry is by his dealings with Kiara’s airheaded “friends,” the lioness cubs Tiifu and Zuri. While the Guard has Bunga, the typical “boys drool” character, Kiara is saddled with two lioness cubs who are more concerned with their looks and social status than with anything even vaguely important.

Kion treats both these fluff-brained characters in general with a respect they have never earned, only rolling his eyes once when talking to them in “The Rise of Scar” and telling them off, rightly, when they allowed Kiara to go to a meeting with a known enemy on her own in “Can’t Wait to Be Queen.” The only explanation for his willingness to consider these two girls as anything remotely resembling “family” is the fact that they are girls – and oh, yeah, they happen to hang out with his sister.

As I have already mentioned, Kion continually shows quick-thinking during the series. Unlike Star Trek: The Next Generation’s unending roundtable discussions in the midst of calm and battle, most of the Guard’s tactics and strategies are actually made by Kion, either on the spur of the moment or through hours of training between patrols. The other members of the Guard follow his orders and decisions, though not always without question or input. In comparison to other male leads (in the modern Disney brand and other franchises), Kion is far more intelligent than the talking heads would have children believe boys can be.

It is also refreshing to see that, even when Kion must trust his friends to come up with a plan, he does not effusively kowtow to them after this. He accepts their advice and praises his friends’ plans without being a sycophant, congratulating them on their quick-thinking before turning back to the task at hand. Or paw, in his case.

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Something else to note about The Lion Guard is Kion’s fighting prowess. The four leading male characters in the show are good fighters, but Kion is the best of the bunch. Where the girl often comes to the boy’s rescue in current children’s television shows, Kion is rarely in need of such a save. And when he does need the help of a female character, such as in “Never Judge a Hyena by Its’ Spots,” Kion shows by his dialogue that he thinks just as deeply and quickly in such situations as those where he is supposedly “in control” of the circumstances.

Thus far, The Lion Guard has proven to be a better series than I had anticipated. It is a show with a male protagonist who is chivalrous, competent, and smart. Though I take issue with some of the show’s themes, one thing which I really appreciate and cheer on is Kion’s quiet, unabashed, and completely proper masculinity.

Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend. Shows which focus on female leads are wonderful inspirations for girls, certainly. But boys need television shows with male characters who are not only unafraid to be boys, but who have a sense of chivalry, along with smarts and fighting ability. They have been denied this for a long time, readers, and The Lion Guard is a more than welcome anticipation of a change in the fads. From what I have seen so far, we need more shows like this one. So, ‘til the Pridelands end –

Lion Guard defend!

Spotlight: Transformers – Female Autobots

In the beginning days of Thoughts on the Edge of Forever, I wrote a post called “Odd Girls Out.” This title did not win the article many views, so I modified it to read “Odd Girls Out: What Happened to the Original Female Autobots?”

The post has since picked up in views, for which I am thankful. The question is an honest one, readers; the Transformers franchise is naturally aimed at boys. There really are not that many girls who like cars and trucks and machines as much as boys do. Boys and girls are different and therefore have different amusements. It is totally, totally normal.

However, when it comes to characters, girls like those as much as boys do. This is probably why, in the original series, several of the male Autobots were paired off with a female counterpart in the episode The Search for Alpha Trion. In that episode, we were introduced to the leading ladies for Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Inferno, and Powerglide, who had accidentally been left behind on Cybertron when the male Autobots left to find a way to save their world. These ladies were Elita One, Chromia, Firestar, and Moonracer.

As with other franchises, Transformers was pushed to add more female characters to its roster as the years passed. So there have been many female Autobots in the franchise, readers. Most of them were added to the comics that followed the advent of the original Transformers television series in the ‘80s. I could not name them all for you for the simple reason that I do not know the half of them. I like the Transformers franchise, but I have not immersed myself in it for a while now.   Therefore, I am only going to discuss the female characters I know of, and why I like them. If you want to know how many more female Autobots there are, you will have to look them up.

So, first off, we have the most important female Autobot to ever grace the franchise…

Elita One

Elita One: Elita One is Optimus Prime’s girlfriend, for want of a better term, in the 1980s TV series and several of the comics. She has appeared sporadically throughout the subsequent Transformers’ media, including the absolutely awful Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, where she had no real speaking part and was killed in the final battle.

Though I have some gripes about her design and paint scheme in the original story (WHY did they have to paint her PINK?!?!?), as a character, Elita was made of some pretty interesting stuff. She had the regular sugar, spice, and everything nice, but she was also a good leader and a worthy counterpart for Optimus in that show. And she was quite capable of taking care of herself in most situations, too.

Regrettably, following portrayals of the character strayed away from this winning debut over the years. After all, these days a woman cannot be classy and a warrior; she has to be too tough to handle. This is the way the writers took the character, especially in the comics related to the Transformers films. It was sickening, after I first saw The Search for Alpha Trion, to read about how the writers had torn out everything that made Elita “strong enough” not only to be gentle but to be graceful and smart. (They also kept her pink color scheme – the one thing that should actually be changed! Pbbbbhhhh!)

If the writers ever wanted to go back to the original version of Elita’s character from the ‘80s, making only a few minor tweaks to her appearance and character to bring her up to date, I would ask them to do so. But they seem to find Elita One to be a total embarrassment to the franchise. Years after her first appearance, she is back collecting dust in the Transformers archives. Until someone pulls her out and places her in a new series, I will be missing this character very much.

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Chromia: In The Search for Alpha Trion, Chromia was to Elita One what Ironhide was to Optimus Prime.   The mentor of and wise subordinate to her commander, Chromia was a veteran of many battles and Ironhide’s longtime girlfriend. She had a rougher edge to her than Elita One; she spoke with a brisk, rough tone of command and she was not the least bit afraid of a two-bit Decepticon pushover. She was also extremely loyal and not prone to showing sentiment – at least, not until Ironhide had to say good-bye and go back to Earth. Then she gave him a smile and a big hug.

To some, Chromia might come off as a proto “Strong Female Character.” But that hug she gives Ironhide at the end of the episode hints at a soft side that she does not often show – but which differentiates her from the “SFC” trope.

Unlike Elita One, Chromia has been able to appear in later series and comics in a better light. She is the only female Autobot to survive the final battle in Revenge of the Fallen and was even considered as a guest character in the series Transformers: Animated. It is probably because of her rougher, battle-tested edge that she has received this treatment. Since she already seemed to be an Amazon warrior, the writers felt they did not need to make as many changes to her as they did to Elita One.

As I said above, I do not consider Chromia the stereotypical Amazon of modern impetus. She is a character I would like to see more of in the future – but I do not think there is much chance of her appearing on the small screen any time soon, unfortunately.

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Firestar and Moonracer: These two Autobots appeared in the same episode as Elita and Chromia. Firestar did not have a big speaking part, so I cannot say much about her – other than she liked to fight fires and appeared to be the perfect female counterpart to her boyfriend, Inferno.

Moonracer, on the other hand, was portrayed as the rookie member of Elita’s crew. She was eager to fight and tended to make mistakes more often than the other ladies. But she was the “best shot in the universe” as she told her boyfriend, Powerglide, before she successfully shot down a pole without actually looking at it.

Firestar and Moonracer both appeared in the comics after this, but I do not know enough about those appearances to say much about either of them. However, I would like it if the writers for new Transformers TV series would include them in the cast list. Why not use the female characters you have before you go off making new ones, or why not show us the originals in addition to the new ones? Some people have no sense.

Arcee (1986)

Arcee: Of all the original female Autobots, Arcee is the only one to return to the small screen with relative consistency. I do not watch her in the reruns of the third season of the 1980s Transformers series because I do not like Rodimus Prime/Hot Rod. It also strikes me that she comes across as something of a powederpuff in the original series. I may be wrong; I have never really watched her in that show and so I cannot say anything about her part there with certainty.

I can say that I was not impressed with her appearance in Transformers: Energon. The third Transformers series I was exposed to, I was very happy when a “girl Transformer” finally appeared on screen. But as Arcee became less and less involved with the main cast, and as she proved to be less and less of a fighter, I lost interest in her. This might have been around the time that I got tired of the color pink, too. I could never understand why a tough female Autobot would want to flaunt such a wimpy, frilly color on the battlefield.

My third introduction to Arcee was in Transformers: Animated in a flashback with Ratchet. She was still pink, which was exasperating, but she was also interesting because she added a new dimension to Ratchet’s crusty character. In the flashback, the two had been captured by a Decepticon bounty hunter. Since Arcee had vital Autobot information in her mind and could not escape the ship as easily as Ratchet could, she begged him to wipe her memories to keep the Decepticons from getting the information.

Ratchet was not eager to do this because he had fallen in love with Arcee, as she had fallen in love with him; the procedure was so dangerous he might make her forget him. But eventually Ratchet was forced to erase her memories just before he got the two of them away from the Decepticon. Jubilant at their escape, he told what he thought was a groggy Arcee that they had in fact made it out…

…only to find that the procedure had wiped Arcee’s entire memory. Not only did she no longer remember the important information or Ratchet, but she had forgotten her name and everything she had experienced prior to Ratchet’s address to her.

The fourth time I met Arcee was in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. That was a brief meeting because she and her “sisters,” Elita One and Chromia, had hardly any lines in the film. Arcee also died along with Elita in the final battle, so their entire part in the movie was nothing but a big waste of time.

Arcee (Transformers Prime)

The last time I saw Arcee was the only time I had a genuine respect for the character. This was Transformers Prime’s Arcee. Not only was she painted blue with only a few pink highlights, she was no powderpuff. She was strong, fast, and sharp, but more than that, much more, she was vulnerable.

At the beginning of the series, Arcee lost her partner on Team Prime, Cliffjumper. It was hinted, but never expressed, that she and he were an item. His loss hit her hard, making her snappy, angry, and bitter for the first few episodes of the series. So you can imagine how she came across to the human boy she was assigned to protect.

Jack Darby had his own problems as well. Abandoned years ago along with his mother by his father, Jack worked a dead end job and rode a bicycle everywhere he needed to go. The whole reason he and Arcee met was because he thought her motorcycle form was beautiful and he stopped to admire her. The interplay between the two characters at the beginning of the series was great, especially as Arcee thawed to Jack and developed a maternal, protective attitude toward him.

Unfortunately, I think the series drifted away from giving this relationship its due. I am all for having the Autobots’ and Decepticons’ interpersonal relationships shown to the audience, but I would like it balanced with a good showing of the Autobots’ interpersonal relationships with their human friends as well. Prime eventually tilted in favor of the former, leaving the promising friendship between Arcee and Jack hanging. If we ever get a chance for this kind of friendship to reappear in a Tranformers series again, I would like to see a better balance between the two relationship sets when we do.

Blackarachnia and Airazor: These two characters appeared in Transformers: Beast Wars, which I never saw. I cannot say anything in favor of or against Airazor; from what I understand, she was the little sister of the group, a sweet, kind, and naïve ‘bot that the rest of the gang loved. Blackarachnia I know a little more about because she sounded interesting. A Decepticon/Predacon who defected to the Autobots/Maximals out of love, Blackarachnia is a well-remembered ‘bot in the Transformers’ franchise.

However, she was reimagined in an unflattering way all around in Transformers: Animated. In that series, Blackarachnia was Elita One. This combination of the two characters had been infected by giant organic spiders on a mission with the future Sentinel and Optimus Primes. She became a half-organic, half-technological being who held a grudge against Optimus for leaving her on the planet when it looked like she had died in a fight with the spiders.

Aside from my obvious dislike of this version of Elita One (the only one I know of that wasn’t PINK), the rebooting of Blackarachnia did not do justice to my impression of the Beast Wars character. Next time, Transformers writers, if Blackarachnia must be a half-organic, half-technological Transformer, can we PLEASE keep her original character arc in place? I am flexible on everything else, but making her Elita One – for Pete’s sake!!! X(

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Override: Now Override has a bizarre history outside of the U.S., so I am not even going to go there. She was a female Autobot in the Canadian translation of Transformers: Cybertron and in the Transformers canon that has been developed in America following the Transformers films. This is the version I am going to talk about, so if you want to dredge up the confusion surrounding the character in other countries, do it on someone else’s blog, reader(s). Are we clear?

Good. All right, the fact is that I really, really like Cybertron’s Override. She was everything I had wanted out of Arcee in Energon and more. The leader of the planet Velocitron, Override was the fastest racer on that world. She had been for years. By the time the Autobots met her in Cybertron, Override had begun to get bored because there was no real competition for her on Speed Planet.

Then Megatron and Hot Shot arrived on Velocitron in search of its Cyber Planet Key. Megatron raced Override for information about it and actually made her fight for the finish line (she won, though), while Hot Shot told her about the universe-eatng black hole that was the big bad of the series and asked her what she knew about the Key. At first, Override was torn. She did not know who to trust, as Megatron took advantage of her ignorance to claim that the Autobots were evil and he was the good guy. (Studiously leaving out the name of his organization in the process; even Megatron knows that the word “Decepticon” does not exactly inspire confidence in too many people.)

In order to solve the issue, Override let Hot Shot race her. Even the fastest of the Autobots could not keep pace with Override, but Hot Shot would not give up. There was too much at stake and he had never met anyone who could beat him before. He pushed and pushed himself to the breaking point as Override worried about which Transformer to believe. Finally, she decided to settle the issue the way that Velocitronians settle most problems – with the biggest race in Velocitronian society, the Speedia 5000.

Hot Shot eventually won the race, but before he did that, he saved Override from a boulder when she had an accident mid-race. The gallantry he demonstrated made an impression on Override and she began to favor the Autobots. This became full-blown allegiance to them on her part when Megatron tried to grab Velocitron’s Cyber Planet Key after Hot Shot won the race.

Override became a valued member of the team following these events and – unlike Energon’s Arcee – she did not fade into the background during the series. She was not as front and center as she had been during the Velocitron arc of the story, but she was never far away from the action. Also, unlike the Amazonian trope, she was not averse to receiving gentlemanly aid. After finishing with Velocitron, Hot Shot would again act to protect Override on Jungle Planet, while other male Autobots would also give her a hand from time to time as the story progressed. Override was happy to say thank you at these times, even though she could usually handle herself in a fight.

I was especially happy when Override got the chance to shoot her Decepticon counterpart, Thunderblast. Of all the galling female Decepticons I have ever seen (and I have not seen many), I would have to say that Thunderblast takes the absolute cake. She was such a petulant, snide, girly contrast to Override that I was somewhat disappointed when the two never had more than one direct confrontation. But I totally agree with Override’s comment when Thunderblast and she first met: “Sheesh, where did they find her?!

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Strongarm: I have mentioned Strongarm, of Robots in Disguise fame, a couple of times in other posts before today. The one that I can remember off the top of my head is “Robots in Disguise: Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?” But I think I mentioned her elsewhere as well.

I have a lot of issues with Strongarm. Now these are my issues and mine alone; they do not have to be yours, readers. First, in Transformers: Energon, her name belonged to a male Omnicon. I think several other series in the franchise had a male character who was an Autobot named Strongarm as well. So the fact that the Robots in Disguise crew decided to saddle a female character with a MALE character’s name grinds my gears even now.

My other problem with Strongarm is that she swallowed the rule book. As of this season in the series, she has gotten better about reading from it. She rarely pulls out the regulation manual these days, though she can still cite it without looking at it. This makes her stiff and unlikeable; I am all for following the rules, but that does not mean I have to be beaten over the head with them. The fact that Strongarm devours regulations like her favorite food reminds me too much of Ultra Magnus, another Autobot with his nose contiually stuck in the system. (I am not the only one who is reminded of Ultra Magnus when Strongarm cites the legal code; another fan suggested that she could be Magnus’ daughter.)

This penchant for worshipping the rules and regulations stifles Strongarm’s creativity. She has been getting better recently, but not by much.

The other thing about Strongarm that bugs me is that, to me, she is so obviously meant to be the “Strong Female Character” on the Bee Team. This is evidenced by the fact that even for a Transformer, Strongarm has more bulk in one arm than Override or Elita One had in their entire bodies. I am not saying that all female Transformers should look like these girls, but the fact is that Strongarm’s muscle structure looks unnatural even for a Cybertronian.

When such an evident character design is presented in a show like this, I cannot help but feel that the writers are stabbing me in the eye with the cause celeb of the moment. The reason I feel this way toward the writers regarding Strongarm is because, a) she was the first female Autobot we saw in the series, so they had to be making a statement; b) she was supposed to be a cop ‘bot, so they wanted her to be all muscly and brawny to make the statement that “girls can be cops, too.”

I flat-out do not like the character the way she was created; the emphasis was on her physique, not her character, and it shows. That is lazy storytelling and it does not sit well with me. I do not like Strongarm; I merely tolerate her to watch a show I enjoy. This leads me to the second female Autobot we see in Robots in Disguise….

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Windblade: Windblade is a fan-made Transformers character. Hasbro had a series of polls prepared, and they used these to ask fans what kind of new Autobot toy they wanted made. The answers the fans gave to the questions built the framework the writers and toy creators used to design Windblade.

I have to say that Hasbro’s whole idea in this regard is fantastic. If Marvel would adopt a program like this, for stories as well as new characters, they might clean up a lot of their problems overnight – not to mention find some new talent for their dwindling reservoir of artists and writers. But I will not be holding my breath for them to try this; we fans are not the “in-crowd” they listen to these days.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Windblade is a much better character than Strongarm. I base this opinion solely on what I have seen of her in Robots in Disguise; I have not read any of the comics where she appears.

In the show Windblade at first comes across as somewhat arrogant and overconfident. This attitude of hers smoothes out as the series progresses; though she remains confident in her skills and keeps her whiplash-quick voice box, she shows a softer side as well. Windblade demonstrated protective, almost daughter-like feelings for Optimus Prime while working with him in season two. This made her confident, teasing banter seem less sharp than it had when she first arrived and (rightly) criticized Strongarm’s stiff behavior. She proved to be gentle as well as competent, and that means a lot in a female warrior character.

All in all, Windblade is a character I want to see more of. I think she can hold her own among the ranks of female Autobots already extant and shows promise of not falling into the “Strong Female Character” trope which gave us Strongarm.

However, this does NOT mean that I do not want Elita One, Chromia, Firestar, Moonracer, Override, Blackarachnia, or even Arcee back in future series. I maintain that Elita and her female friends are still “Odd Girls Out” and that they should be brought back in future stories. I do not want them to be “Strongarmed” versions of the originals or arachnoid manhaters; I want them to be the classy female characters they were when they were introduced – though I am all for ditching the pink color schemes. Until Hasbro does that, I will have to be satisfied with just having Windblade.

‘Til next time, readers: “Autobots, roll out!”